What Olivier Sarr's departure means for Kentucky basketball's 2021-22 roster

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON - Kentucky senior forward Olivier Sarr is sticking to the plan.

When Sarr first announced he was transferring from Wake Forest, he told ESPN he would not spend an extra year in college if the NCAA did not rule him immediately eligible to play last season. The NCAA eventually did clear him to play, but even though all players were granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarr is still keeping his stint at Kentucky to one season.

As expected, Sarr declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday. He is not projected as a likely selection in the 2021 draft but could still be in line for a lucrative professional contract in his home country, France. 

"I am so grateful to have played at Kentucky, and I want to thank all the staff and passionate fans for preparing me for the next step of my journey," Sarr wrote in a note posted to his Instagram account.

When Sarr transferred from Wake Forest to Kentucky he was viewed as the final piece of what might be a Final Four-caliber Wildcat roster. Instead, he battled inconsistency like most of his teammates throughout a disappointing 9-16 season.

Sarr ranked third on the team in scoring (10.8 points per game) and rebounding (5.2 rebounds per game) and second in blocks (30). He shot 47% from the field, often struggling in close range around the basket, and was frequently sidelined by foul trouble.

The 7-footer did emerge as one of Kentucky's most reliable 3-point shooters in SEC play, hitting 12 of 27 3s on the season, but was still primarily used as a low-post presence to play through since the Wildcats lacked a guard capable of consistently driving by defenders to the rim.

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What Oliver Sarr's departure means for Kentucky basketball 2021-22 roster

While Sarr's decision to leave Kentucky is not a surprise, it does add further clarity to the frontcourt situation next season.

West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe is expected to takeover Sarr's starting five spot for Kentucky but will face competition from five-star freshman forward Damion Collins if Calipari decides to abandon his traditional two-big lineup. Forward Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin are expected to return to Kentucky next season, but Kentucky is still awaiting a decision from sophomore forward Keion Brooks.

Freshman forward Isaiah Jackson declared for the draft earlier this month but did leave open the option to a possible return if he does not receive the feedback he wants. As a possible lottery pick, Jackson is expected to ultimately remain in the draft.

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If Brooks and Jackson do return, the 2020-21 froncourt suddenly becomes crowded, even after Sarr's departure. In that scenario, it would not be a surprise to see some of the big men further down the bench reevaluate their transfer options.

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ